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Black History Month: Black History Collection by Special Collections

This research guide highlights library and non-library resources to use in completing Black History Month projects.

Special Collections @ HMCPL


Special Collections serves as the library system’s multimedia resource center for genealogy and local history research. If you’re new to researching your family history or have questions about Huntsville history, please ask us!



The Heritage Room

The Heritage Room focuses on family history research. Although most of our collection relates to areas east of the Mississippi River, we have online databases and additional material for other regions of the country.

We have an extensive local newspaper collection on microfilm such as:

  • The Huntsville Times, 1928 - 2013
  • Many early Huntsville papers, including The Huntsville Democrat, Southern Advocate, the Mercury papers, as well as several individual issues from papers elsewhere in the state.

Other resources available include historical maps and atlases, Native American, family files and microfilm records of local and regional interest.

Genealogy Classes are available. We offer Basic Genealogy, Computer Genealogy Online and Database classes which cover in detail our 5 genealogy subscription databases. Please see our events calendar for information about genealogy classes—

The Archives

The Archives was established in 1976 in order to house the rare, fragile, and unique material that has been part of the library collection since 1818.

The material in our repository is varied and includes the Zeitler Rare Book Collection. Our historic photograph collection is composed of over 25,000 photographic prints and originals, with content ranging from depictions of street scenes and cotton mills throughout Huntsville’s history to portraits of prominent citizens. In addition, we house scrap books, original artwork, local business and organization records, early church records and minutes, diaries and personal correspondence including materials from the Civil War.

We often collaborate with local colleges to display engaging exhibits about Alabama history.

Online Resources

  • HMCPL Special Collections Database Offerings
    • Ancestry
    • World Vital Records – Available from home
    • Fold3 - Available from home
    • New England Ancestors HistoryGeo
  • HMCPL Digital Archives
    Browse our extensive collection of historic photographs, manuscripts, and other historical resources.
  • HMCPL Obituary Index
    An ongoing collaborative project between department staff and volunteers to catalog every obituary in our microfilm and microfiche newspaper collection.

A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture

Baptism at Huntsville's Big Spring around 1895.

Browse through the Library's Special Collections' A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture by selecting this link. Additionally, read below about the library association which helps to identify people and events in black life, history, and culture.

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) was founded in 1915 by Carter G. Woodson. Originally known as the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, this organization continues to grow and blossom meeting its official mission "to promote, research, preserve, interpret, and disseminate information about black life, history, and culture to the global community." This year ASALH, the original founders of Black History Month, has selected “A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture” as the national 2015 theme. In keeping with the national theme, this collection celebrates Huntsville's African American community by pulling together photographs from the Library's collection.
The Library welcomes any help in identifying people or events.

For more information on the national theme:

For information on Library events: